Lychee Tree (Litchi chinensis)

Lychee Tree (Litchi chinensis)

Lychee, (Litchi chinensis), also spelled litchi or lichi, is a tall evergreen tree of the soapberry family (Sapindaceae) grown for its edible fruit. Litchi is native to Southeast Asia and has been a favorite fruit of the Cantonese people. The fruit is usually eaten fresh, but it is also sold canned or dried. The fresh pulp has a savory, musky flavor, while the dried pulp is sour and very sweet.

Lychee Tree (Litchi chinensis)

It is a tropical tree native to Guangdong, Fujian, and Yunnan provinces in southeast and southwest China. Its cultivation has been documented since the 11th century. China is the main producer of lychee, followed by India, other Southeast Asian countries, the Indian subcontinent, Madagascar, and South Africa. Lychee is a tall evergreen tree that produces small fleshy fruits. The outside of the fruit is pink, rough and inedible.

It is best grown in sunny, acidic, fertile, constantly moist, well-drained soil. It grows best in warm, humid climates, but should be given short cool, dry periods to induce flowering, pollination, and fruit set. It is best to plant in a protected location from the wind as it is susceptible to wind damage.

I. Plant Profile – An Overview of the plant

Common NamesLychee, litchi
Botanical NameLitchi chinensis
TypeBroadleaf evergreen
FamilySapindaceae
Mature Height20-40 ft.
Mature Width20-40 ft.
SunlightFull-Partial
Soil TypeMoist, fertile, well-drained soil
Soil pHAcidic (5 to 5.5)
Bloom TimeEarly spring
Native AreasSouthern China
Growth RateSlow
Harvest TimeMay-June
Zone4-11 patio / 9-11 outdoors
Bloom DescriptionYellow
WaterMedium
MaintenanceLow
FlowerShowy
LeafEvergreen

II. Appearance

It is an evergreen tree, often less than 15 meters tall, sometimes reaching 28 meters. Its pinnate compound leaves have a length of 5-8 inch long, it has 4-8 oval to lanceolate pointed leaves that grow in alternate arrangements. Its leaf shape is similar to the plants in the Lauraceae family, due to convergent evolution. It has adapted by developing water-repellent leaves, called laurophylls or lauroid leaves. The leaves are glossy lime green, with four to eight pointed lanceolate lobes in pairs, and have a color of evergreen.

Lychee Tree (Litchi chinensis)

The bark is grayish black and the branches are brownish. Flowers are produced in terminal inflorescences, which are numerous in the current season’s growth.The clusters consist of 10 or more flowers, 10-40 cm long, with hundreds of small white, yellow, or green flowers that give off a distinctive fragrance. After flowering, the spherical to ovoid fruits ripen to red, with the inside of the flesh white and translucent.

Litchi is a spherical to oval-shaped red fruit known for its good taste. It is grown in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the world. Fruits usually ripen from June to July, sometimes in September. The fruits are eaten fresh in season, preserved, dried (lychee nuts), pickled, or frozen without loss of flavor.

Lychee bears fleshy fruits that mature in 80-112 days, depending on climate, location, and variety. The fruits vary in shape from round, oval, to heart-shaped, and are 5 cm long, 4 cm wide, and weigh about 20 grams. The thin, tough skin is green when immature, turning red or pink as it ripens, and is smooth or covered with small, sharp prickles that are rough to the touch. 

Moreover, the skin is inedible, but can be easily peeled off to expose a translucent white fleshy aril layer with a floral aroma and sweet flavor. If left in place after harvest, the skin turns brown and dries out. The fleshy part of the fruit is the aril, which surrounds a single dark brown, inedible seed 1-3.3 cm long and 0.6-1.2 cm wide.

III. Growing and Care Conditions

Planting

Choose a site in the landscape that will not flood but is well drained. Sandy soil with low organic matter is suitable if sufficient fertilizer is available. The planting site should be in full sun to allow good tree growth and fruit development. Make the hole three times the size of the root pot and as deep. Ensure that the tree is as straight as possible and backfill the hole.

Read more  Windmill Palm Tree (Trachycarpus fortunei)
Lychee Tree (Litchi chinensis)

Lychee trees are best planted at least 30 feet away from houses, other large structures, and other trees in the home landscape. Planting in areas that are particularly shaded can affect growth and fruit yield. Planting trees on top of raised soil in flood-prone areas can help prevent water runoff. Lychees do not like to get their feet wet.

If grown indoors, choose a pot one or two sizes larger than the shipping container, use an organic soil mix, and place the potted lychee in a sunny location. Adding mycorrhizal fungi to potted trees will promote root growth. It will increase their ability to distribute and absorb nutrients and water.

Light

Lychee grows well in full sun, but be aware that the plant needs to be acclimated. Young plants that are not accustomed to sunlight will suffer when suddenly exposed to bright light, but once acclimated, they will definitely perform better. As it needs ample sunlight, growing lychee indoors is a hard task. Make sure it receives even sunlight for best results.

Watering

Lychees prefer to be watered regularly with ample amounts of water throughout the year. Lychees do not have a winter rest period, so watering should not be interrupted as it is with other fruit trees. It is not very tolerant of drought. However, newly planted trees should be watered regularly, every couple of days or when the soil is about 3 inches dry. Container-grown lychees should be watered daily.

Lychee Tree (Litchi chinensis)

Fertilizer

Container-grown lychees do not require fertilizer, but a liquid phosphorus application can be used to great effect. Do this when transplanting and around September to October each year. Lychee can benefit from occasional light fertilizing, but with only weak liquid fertilizer.

Soil Requirements

Lychees do not like alkaline soil, so it may be necessary to amend the garden soil with pine bark or pine needles. If you are trying to grow them in pots, use a mildly acidic soil. A pH between 5.0 and 5.5 is best as long as the soil drains well.

Temperature

Lychees are surprisingly cold hardy and can tolerate freezing temperatures, but really prefer warmer temperatures. To flower, lychees need to be exposed to low temperatures (32 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least 100 hours during the winter. It then flowers in early spring and bears fruit in early summer. This tree prefers high humidity.

Pruning

It is recommended that lychees be pruned occasionally to protect them from wind damage and to build a strong structure. Potted plants do not require pruning for at least two to three years.  Even then, only light thinning to open up the crotch angles.

Pests and Diseases

Lychee is prone to have pests like mealybugs, aphids, and mites. Signs of infestation include small webs on plants, white “powdery” clumps, and visible insects on plants. Products like pyrethrum are designed to control aphids and other insect pests that swarm fruit trees. Spray it on lychees according to the product directions and it should kill the pests on contact. Treat the infestation as soon as possible to prevent it from spreading to the rest of your collection.

Varieties of Lychee

Different varieties of lychees are grown in different regions. These are the most popular varieties in the United States. Litchi chinensis ‘Mauritius’ has excellent thick-fleshed fruit and only one large seed. It is a good choice if fruit production is the main objective.

Lychee Tree (Litchi chinensis)

There are other varieties like Brewster (L. chinensis ‘Brewster’), which is a vigorous, upright tree with spreading branches. It is well suited to sites with high moisture content and is also a good variety for fruit production. Another one is L. chinensis ‘Emperor’, one of the best varieties for containers because of its slow growth and compact tree form. It requires less water than other varieties.

Read more  White Dogwood (Cornus florida) Information

IV. Uses

Lychees are grown commercially for fruit production and as landscape trees for shade and fruit harvesting. It is grown commercially and can be harvested for fruit. It is an excellent landscape tree, providing shade, fruit, and botanical interest in front and back yards.

Lychee Tree (Litchi chinensis)

Fruits are small, puckered, lightly fragrant and fleshy. The outside of the fruit has a rough, pinkish skin that is inedible, while the flesh inside is clear to white and sweet. The fruit is usually eaten fresh or frozen and can be made into sauces, jams, purees, and preserves.

Like many other tropical fruits, such as avocados, lychees are not a natural choice for indoor gardeners. Unless there is a greenhouse, it is unlikely to bear fruit or grow into a mature tree. Although it requires a subtropical climate, the plant needs at least 100 hours of cold temperatures to flower and bear fruit. Still, it is good to germinate these seeds and grow attractive plants. However, due to its slow growth, it takes about five years to bear fruit.

Because it requires a subtropical environment, this is not a tree that can be grown in large areas of North America. It can be grown successfully in warm states such as Florida and in sunny areas in California. Planting is usually done in the spring after the danger of frost has passed.

V. Why should you buy this plant

The lychee tree is not just a tree for decoration, it also has a fruit that is enjoyed as it is and in many deserts. It produces this translucent fruit with decadent taste, like a jelly that is firm and sweet that you will not believe that it is not processed in any way.

Lychee Tree (Litchi chinensis)

Lychee trees have been popular for thousands of years for a reason. In fact, there are many reasons. First, the tree combines oriental style with tropical beauty, providing one of the most delicious fruits a gardener can harvest. Lychees are slow-growing and can reach a height of over 3 meters. However, the lychee fruit is so delicious that you will want to keep it within reach.

The lychee tree is an attractive ornamental evergreen tree with tropical delicious fruit with a unique flavor. It also has dense green leaves that adds to its beauty. The tree is resistant to cold and frost.

The lush, dark green foliage contrasts beautifully with the lychee fruit, which is as lush and dark as a rosy grape. This tree is admired not only for its delicious fruit, but also for its unique visual appeal. This tree is an absolute must for your garden or landscape.

The lychee flesh is white and translucent, and its flavor leaves nothing to the imagination. It is sometimes described as tasting like a combination of pear, grape, and coconut milk. Lychees are easy to prepare and taste best when eaten cold. But, they can be added to fruit salads or used as a dessert topping. Try a lychee from our beautiful tree and you will not be disappointed.

VI. FAQs

How long does a lychee tree take to grow?

Lychee trees take at least 5 years to bear fruit. In order to flower and bear fruit, the tree must be exposed to cold temperatures for at least 100 hours in the winter, and it must be pollinated by female flowers.

Is it hard to grow a lychee tree?

A beautiful specimen tree with glossy foliage and attractive fruit, lychee grows best in deep, fertile, well-drained soil, preferring acidic soil with a pH of 5.0-5.5. When growing lychees, be sure to plant them in a protected location. The lychee canopy is dense and can fall over in the wind.

Where is the best place to plant a lychee tree?

In a location where it can get shade to full sun, protected from strong winds and frost. It prefers deep, well-drained soil with organic matter such as compost or humus. It can also be grown indoors as long as it gets sunlight.

Is there a dwarf lychee tree?

The Emperor lychee tree (Litchi chinensis ‘Emperor’) is a beautiful tropical dwarf tree that produces larger, juicier fruit than regular lychee trees.

How long does a lychee tree live?

There are several lychee trees in southern China that are over 1,000 years old. Citrus trees, on the other hand, have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years, are subject to many diseases and pests, and tend to decline over the years.

«
»